Before walking down the aisle, one of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse-to-be and your relationship is to talk about the tough stuff. Discussing potentially dicey topics before saying “I do” helps you build a healthy and successful marriage.
It helps you iron out potential problems before a crisis may occur. It helps to bolster your bond and figure out what you’d like your future to look like — and make sure you’re actually on the same page.
Not discussing these topics gives you a false sense of security. And could lead to a rude awakening later down the line.
For instance, a few years into your marriage, you’ll probably be distressed when you discover that your spouse doesn’t want kids, while you can’t imagine a life without them, said Silvina Irwin, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with couples.
“Individuals can even go so far as to feel tricked by their partner’s passive silence when the topic did come up in the past.” That’s because silence can easily look like agreement, she said. And when a person discovers their partner didn’t agree after all, resentment can fester.
Plus, these are conversations you’ll need to have anyway. It’s actually easier to outline your positions and problem-solve creatively when you’re not in crisis, she said.
Below, Irwin shares the top five topics all couples must discuss before walking down the aisle.
Discuss your spending habits and how you’re going to manage finances as a family. For instance, Irwin suggested asking these questions:
- “Do we share an account or have separate accounts?
- Do you have similar spending habits?
- Will you follow a budget?
- If you have different spending habits, how will you handle these differences?
- What are your realistic financial goals?
- How are you going to handle debts that you bring to the marriage such as student loans [and] car payments?
- Are you going to sign a prenuptial agreement?”
Consider if you’d like to have kids, how many you’d like to have and when you’d like to have them, said Irwin, who also runs workshops for couples. Also, consider who will be the primary caretaker and how you’ll proceed if your method of choice for having kids doesn’t work out.
“Are you willing to go through fertility treatments to conceive? Or, alternatively, are you willing to try to conceive a child biologically if the logistics of the adoption process rule this option out for you?”
Religion and Faith
“Faith and religion can be a very important part of a person’s identity, culture and traditions. It is important to give this topic the time and space it deserves to help your partner understand the role that it plays in your life, and to understand the role it plays in your partner’s life,” Irwin said.
For instance, if you’re having kids, consider the religion you’ll raise them in. Also, consider how you’ll navigate holy days and religious practices with your partner.
While today many couples live together before marriage, they’re still typically in a transitional living situation, Irwin said. So it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page about your location.
For instance, if you’ve always dreamed of traveling abroad with your spouse, you need to “make your vision explicit, and explore it together before walking down the aisle.” If your living situation is dictated by your or your spouse’s profession, talk about how both of you can “adapt to a career-driven living decision.”
Work makes up a large chunk of our lives, which also makes it a critical topic to talk about. Irwin suggested asking these questions:
- “Do you envision a marriage where both partners are working and developing their careers?
- Are you both ambitious in your career development?
- If so, how prepared are you to relocate if your partner were offered an opportunity elsewhere?
- What kind of support do you need from each other to thrive in your career development?”
Talking about these topics may not be easy. But it’s a must for helping you build a fulfilling and lasting union.